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Everton are leading the race to seal Manchester United defender Jonny Evans' signature


Big deal: Jonny Evans could be NI’s most expensive player

Big deal: Jonny Evans could be NI’s most expensive player

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Big deal: Jonny Evans could be NI’s most expensive player

Everton have moved into pole position to sign Jonny Evans, with the Northern Ireland defender's days as a Manchester United player set to come to an end.

The Merseysiders have jumped to the front of the queue to sign the 27-year-old, who is expected to be the most high-profile victim of Louis van Gaal's summer defensive clear out.

The Belfast Telegraph revealed two months ago that the Dutchman is planning to assemble a new-look defence, which doesn't include the Northern Ireland star.

German World Cup-winning centre half Mats Hummels is top of Van Gaal's wanted list, with a £35m deal expected to bring him to Old Trafford from Borussia Dortmund.

Chris Smalling now appears to be ahead of Evans in the pecking order - as does his Northern Ireland colleague Paddy McNair - and although his days as a United first-team regular appear to be numbered, his days as a Premier League player aren't.

North London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur are also believed to be keen to land Evans and although joining the Gunners would offer Champions League football and Spurs could sneak into the Europa League, Goodison Park is Evans' most likely destination.

With his family settled in the north west of England, staying in the area would enable Evans' wife Helen to continue in her job working with United's television channel MUTV, meaning that Everton are well placed to win the race.

Evans will command a fee of around £10m and that will make him Northern Ireland's most expensive player, trumping the £5.75m Celtic paid for Neil Lennon in 2001.

Evans will be included in the Northern Ireland squad for the friendly against Qatar and the training match against the Republic of Ireland, as well as the crunch Euro 2016 qualifier at home to Romania on June 13 when it is named by manager Michael O'Neill tomorrow.

Also expected to be called up for the first time is 22-year-old striker Caolan Lavery from Sheffield Wednesday.

O'Neill is understood to have watched Lavery, who was born in Canada, on more than one occasion recently with a view to including him in the squad.

Lavery has made 14 appearances this season and came to the fore with two goals against Birmingham City back in March.

O'Neill did want him to go on the tour to Uruguay and Chile last summer, but the player wasn't available due to a family wedding.

Northern Ireland striker Jamie Ward, meanwhile, has begun talks with Nottingham Forest over a move after he was released by their local rivals Derby County.

Belfast Telegraph